Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall
Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops
When the summer shower is through
So a voice within me keeps repeating you, you, you
Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon and under the sun
Whether near to me, or far
It’s no matter darling where you are
I think of you
Night and day, day and night, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
Night and day, night and day
Under the hide of me
There’s an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me
And its torment won’t be through
Till you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day
She couldn’t sleep. And it’s not just because she was old, as the doctor told her before prescribing her a few months’ worth of Valium.
It was because of him. Henry. His laugh. The twinkle in his eyes every time they hobbled past each other on walkers. But my goodness, wasn’t she too old for crushes at the grand old age of 80?
She needed more sleep. Her blood pressure was too high, her feet were too swollen and her hair kept dropping. This was absolutely the wrong state to be thinking of well, old men.
Henry was two years older than her but still had a generous portion of snowy hair. He could pass off as 65 and people would probably think she was a cradle-snatcher if they ever dated.
Dating…now how would that take place in a nursing home? The attendants would probably be the occasional chaperones while checking to see of their pee bags were full, and the romantic meal would probably be oats or porridge because they didn’t have most of their teeth left.
But oh, to hold hands with someone again! Henry had a nice, crinkly, firm, warm grasp (she’d noticed that when they first shook hands). So much nicer than the clammy, flaccid and practically non-existent grip of her deceased husband (may God rest his soul) who was simply too lazy to expend energy in bending one’s fingers.
Henry spoke impeccable English and had read law in London, just like her. They’d spent many an afternoon sharing thoughts on their favourite books. He’d highly recommended Tennessee Williams and Isaac Asimov, while she asked her daughter to bring over her old Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf books to prove to him those works were not just “chick lit” (a ridiculous term he’d learned from his teenaged grandson).
She wondered how their families would get along if the ever remarried. My goodness, what was she doing, thinking so far ahead? They’d only loaned each other books last week.
Get a grip of yourself, Patricia Chan, she told herself. She’d always prided on being the more logical and level-headed one in the family, and simply could not allow herself get into such ridiculous frivolities. For one, there was still that will that needed to be written.
(Secretly, she wondered whether this was the first symptom of dementia.)
Nurse Marie came in with the pills in a little plastic cup.
“How did you sleep last night, Mdm Chan? Did the Valium help?”
She shook her head morosely.
“Oh dear, let me increase the dosage a little and see if it helps you tonight ok?”
She nodded her head morosely.
“Oh Mrs Chan, I think Mr Tan wanted me to return these books to you and he included a note too.”
She knew it. Henry did not like the books and was gently turning her down with this seemingly polite gesture.
She deliberately ignored the folded sheet of lavender paper lying on her bedside table for a few hours. However, there was nothing much on TV and so she opened the note which was written in broad, yet gentle cursive strokes.
My dearest Pat,
It is lovely being able to read new works at this point in my life. Thank you for sharing your books with me. I hope to see you around this afternoon at the recreation room. Apparently, they’re serving berry crumble for tea today, and I do remember you telling me that was your favourite dessert.
A love letter! She clutched it close to her heart and suddenly felt sleepy.